Muslims were prevented from entering Al Aqsa for Friday prayers on November, 17 2023. According to Palestinians in the Old City of Jerusalem, this is the sixth week in a row that the majority of people coming to pray have been denied entry.
Israeli Border Police repeatedly told worshippers that they could not enter the Al Aqsa Mosque and to go back to their houses. One elderly man said, “Even we elders cannot enter?” And a woman asked, “Not even a woman can enter?” The Israeli Border Police repeatedly said, “Go. Go. Everybody go.” The Border Police supervisor reiterated to his subordinates, “Everybody coming, just tell them to go.”
A Palestinian just denied entry explains the situation, “We try. We do the best to enter. We are not allowed because we are Arab, but we will do our best.”
Worshippers began to do their jum’ah (communal Friday prayers that are considered a religious obligation in Islam) as close to the Muslim Holy Site as they could get, but Israeli police attacked them there too as they kneeled in prayer.
The loudspeaker from inside the Mosque can be heard reciting a Hadith, a saying of the Prophet Muhammad, familiar to many Palestinians experiencing oppression. According to tradition, Muhammad stated, “Help your brother whether he is an oppressor or an oppressed.” A man responded, “I will help him if he is oppressed but if he is an oppressor, how shall I help him?” The Prophet said, “By preventing him from oppressing, for that is how to help him.”
Al Aqsa Mosque is at the heart of the current escalation, termed a war by Israelis and genocide and ethnic cleansing, a continuation of the Nakba begun in 1948 by Palestinians. Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza have regularly been denied entry into Al Aqsa, but now Israeli border police are denying more and more worshippers entry, even those with the “right” documents.
Israeli border police pushed worshippers attempting to enter Al Aqsa. Somebody cried out חילול השiם (chillul hashem) to those barring entrance to the Muslim Holy Site. Chillul hashem is Hebrew for desecrating the Name of God. In Judaism, Jews are supposed to be representatives of God and God’s moral code, so when a Jewish person acts in a shameful, oppressive manner, they have represented God poorly, thus desecrating God’s name. The concept of chillul hashem is prevalent in the Torah and Tanakh and is often referenced by Jewish people as a reason to uphold the highest moral standard.
Settlers regularly invade Al Aqsa flanked by heavily armed Israeli soldiers. Israel’s national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has led settler incursions into the Al Aqsa complex on multiple occasions.
In 1994 a settler from the Kach terrorist group opened fire on worshippers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Al-Kahlil (Hebron) killing 29 people and injuring about 150. Afterwards, the mosque was divided in half, with half staying open to Palestinian worshippers and the other half turned into a synagogue, closed to Palestinians.
Violent extremist Israeli settlers have made no secret of their plans to destroy Al Aqsa Mosque and the Haram-e-Sharif on which it rests, and replace it with a third Jewish Temple.
There has been a decentralized leaderless movement to defend Al Aqsa through sit-ins at the historic Mosque. But many of these Mosque protectors have been blacklisted and are now barred from entry.